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Streaking Isotopes win again, take series opener against Sugar Land

Isotopes left fielder Ryan Vilade slides into home after his first inning inside-the-park home run on Thursday night, setting the tone for Albuquerque’s 8-5 win over Sugar Land in the first of six-game series at Isotopes Park. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

There was no play at the plate.

But Ryan Vilade, one of the Colorado Rockies’ top prospects who has been transitioning to the outfield this season with the Albuquerque Isotopes, had just sailed about 350 feet around the bases Thursday night on the way to a first-inning inside-the-park home run to center field when he decided the final 10 were probably a good time to rest up.

“It was more of I need to catch my breath, so let’s slide,” Vilade said. “Just lay there for a second.”

The 22-year-old from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who was selected to play in Major League Baseball’s All-Star Futures game this past weekend in Denver, went 2-for-4 on Thursday with the homer and a triple in an 8-5 series-opening win for the Isotopes over the visiting Sugar Land Skeeters.

The win was No. 6 in a row for the suddenly red-hot Isotopes, who fared much better Thursday to start this six-game series than the 2-10 record they posted earlier in the season against one of the top teams in Triple-A West.

After winning just 15 of their first 48 games by the end of June, the Isotopes have won 10 of 12 in July.

“We’re trending in the right direction, man,” said Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer. “I mean, we’re just playing better baseball night in and night out. It’s a consistency thing. We’re pitching out of the bullpen and we’re hitting in timely situations and that equals wins.”

Four Isotopes had multihit games Thursday, including outfielder Connor Joe whose 3-for-4 night pulled his average up to .325. And Taylor Motter had a four-RBI night, including his 12th homer of the season, a three-run shot to center field.

But the Isotopes arms are also getting the job done of late.

Starter Ryan Castellani (2-6) allowed three hits and one earned run over five innings with four strikeouts, and Logan Cozart closed the door with a scoreless ninth for his second save.

The feel in the clubhouse of late, Vilade says, isn’t a whole lot different than earlier when the team stumbled out of the gates. He said the chemistry has always been good, they just weren’t always performing well at the same times.

“When our offense was good, our pitching might not have been the best. And whenever our pitching dominated, you know, we didn’t hit,” said Vilade. “But now, I think you’re starting to see us click a little bit on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.”

BREGMAN WATCH: While Albuquerque’s Alex Bregman hinted at an injury rehab assignment this week in his hometown as the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate Skeeters were playing the Isotopes, there remained no such news of that happening Thursday night.

CYCLE WATCH? When Vilade followed his first-inning inside-the- park home run with a third inning triple, most everyone paying attention knew hitting for the cycle would be a real possibility.

But would he admit he was thinking the same?

“Yeah, 100%. I think I think you’re not human if that’s going through your brain,” Vilade admitted. “It’s there. But yeah, you just try to do a job every at bat with whatever comes your way.”

After the triple, Vilade went strikeout in the fourth, walk in the sixth and ground-out in the eighth.

As for his last inside-the-park home run, it wasn’t that long ago. He hit one in 2019 for High-A Lancaster.

STREAKING: They aren’t there yet, but if we’re talking win streaks, the Isotopes’ record is nine, which they’ve done twice:

• 9 games — April 18, 2006 — April 27, 2006

• 9 games — July 8, 2016 — July 19, 2016

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